Monday 31 July 2006

Rockets rain down on Israelis near border

Half the residents of Kiryat Shemona have fled southward

Monday, July 31, 2006
Page A - 7

Matthew Kalman, Chronicle Foreign Service

Kiryat Shemona, Israel -- Forest fires raged into the night on the mountains around this town after the north of Israel suffered a barrage of more than 150 Hezbollah rockets on Sunday.

More than 90 rockets fell in and around Kiryat Shemona, a city of 22,000 near the border with Lebanon where life has been virtually frozen since hostilities began on July 12 with a Hezbollah cross-border raid and rocket barrage.

"I am supposed to be a hero for my children, but I can't be that anymore. I am afraid," said resident Iris Shviti, emerging with her children from a shelter.

As many as half the residents of Kiryat Shemona are believed to have fled the town for safer areas in southern Israel.

"In the first days, it was hard. Now, it is impossible. I can't take it anymore," said Shviti's 14-year-old son, Lior.

A shopping center and a house both took direct hits as residents ran for cover to air-raid shelters and specially reinforced rooms. Scores of buildings were damaged, and 10 vehicles were set ablaze.

Police and emergency services struggled to fight the fires and raced around the city checking for casualties as the rockets hit the town in barrages from early morning to evening. Seventeen people were injured by nightfall, but there were no reports of fatalities.

Dark smoke billowed into the evening sky, turning deep red against the setting sun. On the outskirts of the town, several Israeli army artillery batteries pounded southern Lebanon with 155mm howitzers, the heavy shells whistling over the mountains to hit targets up to 15 miles away.

The Israeli troops have been camped out on the field since the fighting began, eating and sleeping in the open air among neatly arranged stores of shells and huge mobile artillery batteries, which to the uninitiated closely resemble tanks.

Every few minutes, another huge gun fired a 3-foot-long shell. Flames spouted from the end of the 20-foot cannon. A deafening report like a thunderclap split the air, sending shockwaves pulsing across the field. The troops wore special ear protectors to muffle the sound and bulletproof vests to protect themselves in case a Hezbollah rocket hit near their position.

"We're defending the people in the north of Israel by firing artillery shells to destroy the Hezbollah rocket launchers. Our accuracy is pretty good," said gunner Eli Deutsch, a New York native who immigrated to Israel at age 8 with his parents.

The soldiers wondered how much longer they would have to be there. The Israeli government announced late Sunday that it would suspend air attacks for 48 hours while it investigates how civilians were fatally targeted in the Lebanese city of Qana. Before the announcement -- which was made by the U.S. Department of State -- Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz had said military operations would continue despite the "painful" deaths of more than 50 people in the attack on a building in the Hezbollah stronghold of Qana.

Peretz said Israel needed another two weeks to complete its mission to destroy the Hezbollah military presence in southern Lebanon.

"Only two more weeks," said one Israeli soldier as he hefted a shell weighing more than 80 pounds into the howitzer in preparation for another strike. "That's not so bad."

There was a crackle of radio static, and the field commander ordered the battery gunners to halt their fire. The hit was confirmed. The target was destroyed. The commander declined to identify the target or reveal how he knew it had been hit.

But the quiet was short-lived. A few minutes later, two batteries across the field began firing in tandem. Another Hezbollah target was in their sights.

The Israelis are hoping that their artillery will destroy the Hezbollah missile silos and rocket launchers that have shut down the lives of a million Israelis in northern Israel.

Sunday 30 July 2006

Under Olmert, Israel putting new emphasis on diplomacy

Officials, citing absence of pressure to halt assault in Lebanon, say it's working

Sunday, July 30, 2006
Page A - 8

Matthew Kalman, Chronicle Foreign Service

Jerusalem -- When Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called an emergency Cabinet meeting late last week, Nimrod Barkan received an urgent late-night call requiring his attendance.

The presence of the head of the Israeli Foreign Ministry Center for Policy Research would have been unthinkable a short time ago. But these days, Barkan and his Foreign Ministry colleagues are savoring a new experience: being taken seriously by the man at the top.

Foreign Ministry officials say they are beginning to reap the benefits of increased Israeli efforts to engage the international community, after decades of isolation and rejection in successive governments dominated by military and intelligence officials. The officials point to the fact that Israel has so far escaped head-on pressure from the international community to halt its assault on Hezbollah as a measure of their success.

So far, Britain and the United States have blocked calls for an immediate cease-fire, allowing Israel's military campaign to continue. Last week, in fact, much of the international criticism for blocking a call for an immediate cessation was aimed at President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, not at Israel.

"We learned the lessons of losing international support during the intifada," said one ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, referring to the Palestinian uprising that ended last year. "The world agrees with us in the war on terror, and we have learned that we cannot achieve our security imperatives on our own. We need to build international coalitions."

Two weeks ago, foreign ministers from the Group of Eight industrialized countries and the European Union pointedly blamed Hezbollah for sparking the current conflict and called for the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 -- which calls for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon, the disarming of militias and the extension of Lebanese government control over all its territory.

"There is an understanding today that our national goals seeking security in Lebanon do in fact complement completely the stated position of the international community," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said. "As a result, we can use our diplomacy in a very effective way to bring about changes that are positive."

Regev said it helps that Israel is merely seeking to enforce agreed-on policies: "Israel is saying to the international community, 'Implement your own resolutions.' "

"There is broad international agreement, as expressed in the G-8 statement, that Hezbollah is responsible for the current crisis," Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told a small group of reporters in Jerusalem last weekend. "There is also broad international agreement on the nature of the threat -- that it is a regional threat connected to an axis comprising Hezbollah, Syria, Iran and Hamas. There is agreement that our soldiers should be released unconditionally and U.N. Security Council resolution 1559 be implemented."

She added, "This is a test, not just for Israel, but for the international community."

Livni's suggestion that international sentiment chimes with the Israeli position is borne out by the unfolding diplomacy, Israeli officials said.

"The rejectionist front has underestimated Israel's determination and capacity for deterrence. It has proved there is no way back to the status quo in Lebanon, and it revealed Iran's hegemonic aspirations to the entire world," wrote former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, no slouch when he felt the need to criticize Israeli policies in the past.

Some Israeli politicians are still uncomfortable with the subtleties of diplomacy. When foreign ministers meeting in Rome on Wednesday failed once again to demand an immediate cease-fire, Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon could hardly contain his joy.

"We received yesterday at the Rome conference permission from the world ... to continue the operation, this war, until Hezbollah won't be located in Lebanon and until it is disarmed," Ramon crowed on Israeli army radio. "Everyone understands that a victory for Hezbollah is a victory for world terror."

Those comments sparked embarrassment in Jerusalem and disdain abroad. U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli called Ramon's statement "outrageous."

If Ramon represents the old breed of Israeli leaders -- given to blurting out blunt comments that are a gift to Israel's critics -- Livni has been welcomed as a breath of fresh air.

Benny Dagan, head of the Middle East desk at the ministry's Center for Political Research, said Livni has nurtured close contacts with friendly foreign ministers, including Rice, that are reaping benefits during the current crisis. "She has been very successful in terms of creating this very close relationship with her colleagues," Dagan said.

The chemistry between Olmert and Livni has invigorated Israeli diplomacy all the way down the line, officials said. The past turf wars that paralyzed Israeli policymaking, diplomacy and public relations have been replaced by a new can-do attitude. Israeli officials are hopeful that the international community is willing to hear their message.

"In the past, we haven't been effective in bringing international legitimacy to our own demands," Regev said.

Ministry experts who have labored for years researching regional issues and strategic options have been pleasantly surprised to find themselves briefing the country's leaders and policymakers.

"I think the current foreign minister is a strong power within that framework," Dagan said. "It's allowing us to be more effective, at least in terms of presenting what we would like to see in terms of the political resolution of that conflict."

Unlike his immediate predecessors, Olmert became Israel's leader without experience as a senior military or intelligence officer. He is a career politician used to taking advice from professionals, and both he and Livni are eager to embrace diplomacy alongside Israel's tested skills in warfare and espionage.

The process began under Prime Minister Ehud Barak, an ex-general who won international legitimacy and U.N. verification for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon in May 2000, ending an 18-year occupation.

Ariel Sharon, his successor, talked Israelis into supporting the disengagement from Gaza in September 2005. The plan eventually won international support, including the deployment of European Union monitors at the sensitive Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt.

Prompted by Livni, Olmert has gone further, abandoning Israel's traditional objections to the deployment of international peacekeepers and calling for an international "stabilization force" in Lebanon.

"This is a serious, substantive departure from Israel's traditional mode of diplomacy," said historian Michael Oren of the Shalem Center think tank in Jerusalem. "In the past, Israel has embarked on a military initiative or responded to Arab attack and assumed that military might alone would achieve the required diplomatic results. Now, there is an understanding that military action is ancillary to diplomacy."

Not everyone is convinced that diplomacy has come to the fore. Daniel Levy, an aide in the Barak government who is now director of the Middle East Initiative at the New America Foundation and Century Foundation, chided Israel's diplomats "for failing to devise a diplomatic offensive that could have encouraged a new reality in southern Lebanon."

He called the years since Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon "a gargantuan missed opportunity for Israeli diplomacy. Why did Israel not initiate a public overture -- offering Lebanese prisoners in return for certain steps in the south, for instance, or make this a priority talking point with the U.S. or international community?"

Wednesday 26 July 2006

Iran the 500-pound gorilla as diplomats gather in Rome

PAGE A - 8
Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Matthew Kalman, Chronicle Foreign Service

Jerusalem -- Diplomats from the West and the Middle East gather in Rome today, two weeks after a cross-border attack spiraled into deadly warfare, in hope of pressing the Israelis and Hezbollah's leaders on a cease-fire and, perhaps, an international force to maintain peace along Lebanon's southern border with Israel.

When the meeting was scheduled, long ago, the agenda was to discuss the economic regeneration of Lebanon. But the violence of the past two weeks had suddenly imbued the gathering with fresh urgency.

"I have no doubt there are those who wish to strangle a democratic and sovereign Lebanon in its crib," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday before meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem. "We, of course, also urgently want to end the violence."

"In Rome, we'll be searching for a solution," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Monday, calling for an immediate humanitarian truce to end the fighting. "What is important is that we leave Rome with a concrete strategy as to how we are going to deal with this, and we do not walk away empty-handed and once again dash the hopes of those who are caught in this conflict."

Participants at the conference include not only the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, but also Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, all important regional players. All of them agree on the need for a cease-fire and a beefed-up multinational force to help keep the peace.

But lurking behind the talk of warfare that has led to rising tolls of dead and wounded on both sides, as well as destruction of much of Lebanon's infrastructure, is the issue of what to do about Iran, Hezbollah's chief bankroller.

Israel has said that breaking Iran's hold on Hezbollah in Lebanon is the aim of its massive military response to the initial incursion by the militant Islamic group on July 12 -- which resulted in the capture of two Israeli soldiers and the killing of eight more in ground fighting, plus the barrage of Hezbollah rockets into northern Israel.

Ephraim Sneh, leader of the Labor Party faction in the Knesset, Israel's parliament, and deputy defense minister at the time of Israel's pullout after an 18-year occupation from Lebanon in 2000, said the defeat of Hezbollah could be a turning-point in the growing confrontation with the Iranians.

"If we complete this mission, it will be our first victory over Iran and will constitute an unmistakable message that we have no intention to shy away from Iran's nuclear and terrorist threat," Sneh wrote in the Yediot Ahronot daily. The desire to thwart Iran also helps explain the foot-dragging that has characterized U.S. and British diplomacy since fighting broke out.

"There have been, as you would expect, over the past few days, enormous diplomatic efforts to get us to the point where I hope at some point within the next few days we can say very clearly what our plan is to bring about such an immediate cessation of hostilities, and to try to make sure that we put in place then some mechanism that will allow greater stability in the region," British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in Downing Street earlier this week.

As observers struggled to understand the timeline suggested by Blair's words, Rice was bringing the Bush administration's view to Jerusalem. Despite international pressure, President Bush has declined to pressure Israel, Washington's close ally, to stop bombing, allowing Israeli forces to finish wiping out Hezbollah's military capability in Lebanon.

"If we have learned anything, it is that any peace is going to have to be based on enduring principles and not on temporary solutions," Rice told Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Monday. "We will talk about how to get to an enduring cessation of violence, how to deal with the significant humanitarian problems that are currently facing the people of Lebanon."

"The situation which has been developing in Lebanon over the past few years obliged us to set targets whereby we could remove the threat and also ensure long-term stability," Livni said in Jerusalem on Sunday night. "The diplomatic negotiations which we are engaged in accompany the military operation and are designed to safeguard the army's achievements and to achieve, together with the international community, a better situation in the long term."

In other words, she appeared to be saying, Israeli diplomacy is not geared to achieving a cease-fire. Its aim is to solidify Israeli military gains, and diplomacy cannot be undertaken until those military aims are achieved.

If the international community has given Israel a free hand in Lebanon for the moment, Israel also has given way on one of its most dearly-held principles -- an international peacekeeping force.

Israel's experience of the UNIFIL observers in Lebanon -- several of whom were killed by an errant Israeli bomb Tuesday -- has been an unhappy one. The July 12 ambush that sparked the current crisis took place within sight of a U.N. position.

As recently as July 18, Israel's prime minister dismissed the idea of another multinational force. Briefing Israeli diplomats in Jerusalem, Olmert called an international force a good headline, but said Israel's experience "shows that there is nothing behind it."

By Sunday, the Israelis had performed a U-turn.

"We are going to discuss with the international community the best way to support the Lebanese government," said Livni. "We believe that the responsibility is of the Lebanese government, but we can support some ideas of effective forces that will help."

Soldier mourned in his adopted land

Family, friends, and fellow soldiers buried Sergei Volsiuk in Kibbutz Lahav, Israel. Volsiuk, 21, was killed Thursday by a Hezbollah rocket-propelled grenade in southern Lebanon. (David Blumenfeld for the Boston Globe)

Ukraine emigre dies carrying Israeli comrade

BOSTON GLOBE | July 26, 2006
By Matthew Kalman, Globe Correspondent

KIBBUTZ LAHAV, Israel -- Sergei Volsiuk came to Israel from his native Ukraine at age 16 in search of a better life, and he died a hero's death.

Volsiuk, 21, was killed by a Hezbollah rocket-propelled grenade in southern Lebanon on Thursday as he carried a wounded comrade from the battlefield under heavy fire. He was laid to rest in a rough wooden casket with full military honors yesterday at his adopted home, the serene Kibbutz Lahav on the edge of the Negev desert.

Volsiuk, one of two dozen Israeli soldiers killed in the two-week-old conflict, was mourned yesterday by family, friends, and comrades in arms, soldiers from the elite Egoz commando unit. He was killed as Israeli forces fought a decisive battle for control of Maroun al-Ras, a village in southern Lebanon known as a center for Hezbollah guerrilla activity.

By the graveside, weeping quietly, were the soldier's two mothers -- one from his native country and his adopted kibbutz mother.

His Ukrainian mother, Yulia, flew in with his father, Vasily, and younger brother, Losha, from their home in Simferopol, Ukraine. As a military honor guard fired three shots over the grave, Yulia said during the service that she understood why he had adopted the name Jonathan. It means ``God's gift" and was the name of King Saul's son, who also fell in battle.

``You were indeed a gift from God," said Yulia, who said she never considered flying his body back to Ukraine. ``He was an Israeli citizen and he fulfilled his duty here, so he should be buried here. He loved the country very much."

Sharing Yulia's tears was Dalit Gal, who took in Volsiuk as a newly arrived teenager at the kibbutz and groomed him for life in his new country.

``For six years, you were a son to me and a brother to my daughter," Dalit said at the graveside. ``You carried her on your shoulders around the kibbutz. I never saw you angry or in a bad mood. You will always be with us."

Overcome with emotion, fellow commando Rotem Cohen told the crowd of several hundred crammed into the tiny kibbutz cemetery of Volsiuk's expertise in map-reading and of his selfless commitment to helping others.

``You sat up late, poring over maps and trails so you could lead us safely through dangerous terrain," Cohen said. ``We first saw you at the training base, carrying a stretcher. And that was also our last sight of you, carrying a wounded comrade from the heat of battle, then running back into the fray without any thoughts for yourself.

``You were killed as you lived, worrying about us, your friends, more than you worried about yourself. You will always be a part of us," he said.

Volsiuk had been scheduled to leave the army in November and planned to set up house with his girlfriend. He dreamed of becoming a dentist. He arrived in Israel in the summer of 2000 with Na'aleh, an organization that looks after young immigrants arriving without their families.

Sergei Fishman, a fellow immigrant and friend from Na'aleh, described Volsiuk as ``an example to us all."

``You were full of love for all around you," Fishman said. ``You lived every moment of your life to the fullest. Your afterworld is in our hearts. We thank your family for giving us such a dear friend."

Tuesday 25 July 2006

German soldiers protecting Jews?

Posted By: Foreign and National Desk (Email) | July 25 2006 at 04:34 PM

From Matthew Kalman in Jerusalem

The idea is not so far-fetched now that an international peacekeeping force, including German troops, is being seriously discussed as part of the solution to the Israel-Hezbollah war.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who met with Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday, said such an idea needed careful thought.

"The participation of Germany is a particularly sensitive discussion. The difficult common history between Germany and Israel always comes into it."

No kidding.

Karen Tsafrir, a wedding planner for Live Events Israel whose mother was hidden from the Nazis in Holland during World War II, was almost at a loss for words when asked what she thought.

"That's really uncanny, that's so odd. I'm not sure that I like that. Is it their guilt? What are they doing here?"

"Emotionally it's very difficult to accept the idea of having a German army on the borders of Israel," said Yair Amichai, a psychologist at Bar-Ilan University whose parents were born in Germany.

Amichai said he would be suspicious of German motives. "They say they care about the Jewish state and feel a special responsibility but they are heavily involved with deep financial interests in Iran and Syria, and it doesn't put them in a good position to be objective."

However, Nomi Roth-Elbert of Atzum, a group working in Israel with "righteous gentiles" who saved Jews from the Nazis, liked the idea. "We know that the new generation of Germans are trying to understand and be good friends of Israel," she said.

Karen Tsafrir's 17-year-old son Tal, who has visited Nazi death camps in Poland, felt completely the opposite.

"The idea is outrageous," he said.

As rockets rain down, a hospital takes cover

BOSTON GLOBE | July 25, 2006
By Matthew Kalman, Globe Correspondent

NAHARIYA, Israel -- When Katyusha rockets started falling around the Western Galilee Hospital on the outskirts of Nahariya in northern Israel, there was only one place to go -- underground.

In just over an hour, more than 180 patients, including birthing mothers, newborns, and general surgical cases, were moved together with their monitors, drips, nursing staff, and all ancillary equipment into bomb-proof shelters beneath the hospital buildings.

``After the hospital was hit by rockets in the early 1980s and three employees were wounded, we insisted that every new wing must have a bomb-proof emergency facility constructed underneath," said Dr. Moshe Daniel, the deputy director of the hospital, which serves a population of more than 450,000 people across northern Israel.

``Now we have 400 beds underground, including a medical emergency room. All of our eight operating theaters are bomb-proof and also protected in case of a chemical or biological event. One-hundred and eighty of the underground beds are similarly protected," he said.

The hospital serves as Israel's front-line emergency room for most of the area now under bombardment from Hezbollah rockets, as well as the first port of call for soldiers wounded in the fighting. More than 2,000 people work at the hospital.

When the rockets began falling soon after the start of the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict on July 12, employees more than 10 minutes' drive away were asked to sleep over between shifts so as not to endanger themselves on the roads. When Nahariya was placed under curfew and residents ordered into bomb shelters, the hospital expanded its day-care facilities for the children of its workers in one of the underground bunkers and brought in extra people to help look after them. The army provided some of its young conscripts to help the nurses.

``I was on my way to work when the first rocket fell on Nahariya," said Daniel. ``It exploded right in the street ahead of me. Since then rockets have been falling all around us, every day. This is the largest building in the area and from a distance it probably stands out. I think Hezbollah use our main block to help aim their weapons. Maybe they think it looks like a military facility."

The hospital treated 400 patients injured in the first week of the war, including one soldier. ``Fortunately, only three of them were seriously injured," he said.

The basement spaces beneath the buildings are connected by large tunnels wide enough for ambulances to drive through. Inside, the atmosphere is hot and hectic. Generators hum in the background.

One of the surgical patients was David Levy, 58, whose leg was sliced open by shrapnel when a Katyusha exploded just a few yards from his home in the village of Zarit on the Israel-Lebanon border.

``I've been through all of Israel's wars, but this is the toughest," said Levy, his leg swathed in bandages. ``We came under massive fire. They used these six years since Israel pulled out to dig in and arm themselves with huge quantities of missiles."

In the underground emergency room, director Arie Eisenman is making do with 20 beds instead of the usual 55. A makeshift resuscitation room has been set up in an adjacent storage cupboard.

``It's cramped. There's hardly enough room for the doctors to get around. It's less ventilated and very hot. The staff have to remember to keep drinking all the time. But it's much safer down here," he said. ``We are under heavy shelling all the time. It's a necessity."

Israelis balk at German troops

Originally published on July 25, 2006


JERUSALEM - Many Israelis were appalled yesterday at the idea that German troops might join a new peacekeeping force on Israel's border.

The possibility of German troops guarding Israelis quickly revived memories of the Holocaust.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has called for a strong European buffer force rather than the UN, which has proved useless against Hezbollah.

Germany has suggested it might be willing to contribute soldiers to such a peacekeeping operation.

Karen Tsafrir, a wedding planner for Live Events Israel, said she was shocked by the suggestion.

"That's really uncanny; that's so odd. I'm not sure that I like that. Is it their guilt?" she asked.

And her 17-year-old son, Tal, who has visited Nazi death camps in Poland, was even more opposed.

"The idea is outrageous," he said.

Yair Amichai, a psychologist at Bar-Ilan University whose parents were born in Germany, was skeptical of having German troops protecting the Jewish state.

"Emotionally, it's very difficult to accept the idea of having a German army on the borders of Israel because Germany has a very hypocritical policy. They say they care about the Jewish state and feel a special responsibility, but they are heavily involved with deep financial interests in Iran and Syria and it doesn't put them in a good position to be objective," he said.

But Nomi Roth-Elbert of Atzum, a group working in Israel with gentiles who saved Jews from the Nazis, applauded the plan.

"We know that the new generation of Germans is trying to understand and be good friends of Israel," she said.

Sunday 23 July 2006

Frontline Israeli hospital takes cover underground

Facility remains fully functional as rockets rain down nearby


Dr. Arieh Eisenman, the director of the medical emergency room, says conditions underground are hot and cramped, but much safer. Photo by David Blumenfeld, special to the Chronicle.

David Levy gets treatment for shrapnel wounds at an underground ward at Western Galilee Hospital. Photo by David Blumenfeld, special to the Chronicle.

Sunday, July 23, 2006
Page A - 15

Matthew Kalman, Chronicle Foreign Service

Nahariya, Israel -- When Katyusha rockets launched from Lebanon started falling around the Western Galilee Hospital on the outskirts of this town in northern Israel, there was only one place to go.


The decision was made at 1 a.m. on July 13, about 24 hours after Hezbollah launched a cross-border raid and kidnapped two Israeli soldiers. A little over an hour later, more than 180 patients, including mothers giving birth, newborns and general surgical cases, had been moved -- together with their monitors, drips, nursing staff and all ancillary equipment -- into bomb-proof shelters beneath the hospital buildings.

"After the hospital was hit by rockets in the early 1980s and three employees were wounded, we insisted that every new wing must have a bomb-proof emergency facility constructed underneath," said Dr. Moshe Daniel, deputy director of the hospital, which serves a population of more than 450,000 people across northern Israel.

"Now we have 400 beds underground, including a medical emergency room. All of our eight operating theaters are bomb-proof and also protected in case of a chemical or biological event -- 180 of the underground beds are similarly protected," he said.

The hospital serves as Israel's frontline emergency room for most of the area now under bombardment, as well as the first destination for soldiers wounded in the fighting.

More than 2,000 people work at the hospital. When the Hezbollah rockets began falling, those who live more than 10 minutes' drive away were asked to sleep over between shifts so as not to endanger themselves on the roads. When Nahariya was placed under curfew and residents ordered into bomb shelters, the hospital expanded its day care facilities for the children of its workers in one of the underground bunkers, and brought in extra people to help look after them. The army provided some young conscripts to help the nurses.

"I was on my way to work when the first rocket fell on Nahariya," said Daniel. "It exploded right in the street ahead of me. Since then, rockets have been falling all around us, every day. This is the largest building in the area, and from a distance it probably stands out. I think Hezbollah uses our main block to help aim their weapons. Maybe they think it looks like a military facility."

The hospital treated 400 patients injured in the first week of the war, including one soldier. "Fortunately, only three of them were seriously injured," Daniel said. No one on the hospital staff has been injured.

The basement spaces beneath the buildings are connected by large tunnels wide enough for ambulances to drive through. Inside, the atmosphere is hot and hectic. Overhead, huge silver ventilation shafts gleam dimly. Generators hum in the background. The various wards, which in their regular homes on the floors above enjoy state-of-the-art facilities, are separated by chipboard partitions with printed signs. There is a sense of highly efficient chaos glimpsed behind the scenes, as if a visitor had stumbled backstage on the set of a medical TV show.

David Levy, 58, a patient in the underground surgical ward, was being treated for a leg wound caused by shrapnel when a Katyusha exploded just a few yards from his home in the village of Zarait on the Israel-Lebanon border.

"I've been through all of Israel's wars, but this is the toughest," said Levy, his injured leg swathed in bandages. "We came under massive fire. They used these six years since Israel pulled out (of Lebanon) to dig in and arm themselves with huge quantities of missiles."

Levy needed three operations to repair the damage. Otherwise, he said, he "would go home tomorrow."

"I know it looks like a mess down here, but the staff are fantastic and the treatment is excellent. They are doing a wonderful job," he said.

In the makeshift emergency room, director Dr. Arieh Eisenman was making do with 20 beds instead of the 55 upstairs. A resuscitation room had been set up in an adjacent storage closet.

"It's cramped. There's hardly enough room for the doctors to get around. It's less ventilated and very hot," he said. "But it's much safer down here. We are under heavy shelling all the time. It's a necessity."

Friday 21 July 2006

Israel set war plan more than a year ago

Strategy was put in motion as Hezbollah began gaining military strength in Lebanon


By Matthew Kalman, Chronicle Foreign Service

Jerusalem -- Israel's military response by air, land and sea to what it considered a provocation last week by Hezbollah militants is unfolding according to a plan finalized more than a year ago.

In the six years since Israel ended its military occupation of southern Lebanon, it watched warily as Hezbollah built up its military presence in the region. When Hezbollah militants kidnapped two Israeli soldiers last week, the Israeli military was ready to react almost instantly.

"Of all of Israel's wars since 1948, this was the one for which Israel was most prepared," said Gerald Steinberg, professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University. "In a sense, the preparation began in May 2000, immediately after the Israeli withdrawal, when it became clear the international community was not going to prevent Hezbollah from stockpiling missiles and attacking Israel. By 2004, the military campaign scheduled to last about three weeks that we're seeing now had already been blocked out and, in the last year or two, it's been simulated and rehearsed across the board."

More than a year ago, a senior Israeli army officer began giving PowerPoint presentations, on an off-the-record basis, to U.S. and other diplomats, journalists and think tanks, setting out the plan for the current operation in revealing detail. Under the ground rules of the briefings, the officer could not be identified.

In his talks, the officer described a three-week campaign: The first week concentrated on destroying Hezbollah's heavier long-range missiles, bombing its command-and-control centers, and disrupting transportation and communication arteries. In the second week, the focus shifted to attacks on individual sites of rocket launchers or weapons stores. In the third week, ground forces in large numbers would be introduced, but only in order to knock out targets discovered during reconnaissance missions as the campaign unfolded. There was no plan, according to this scenario, to reoccupy southern Lebanon on a long-term basis.

Israeli officials say their pinpoint commando raids should not be confused with a ground invasion. Nor, they say, do they herald another occupation of southern Lebanon, which Israel maintained from 1982 to 2000 -- in order, it said, to thwart Hezbollah attacks on Israel. Planners anticipated the likelihood of civilian deaths on both sides. Israel says Hezbollah intentionally bases some of its operations in residential areas. And Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has bragged publicly that the group's arsenal included rockets capable of bombing Haifa, as occurred last week.

Like all plans, the one now unfolding also has been shaped by changing circumstances, said Eran Lerman, a former colonel in Israeli military intelligence who is now director of the Jerusalem office of the American Jewish Committee.

"There are two radical views of how to deal with this challenge, a serious professional debate within the military community over which way to go," said Lerman. "One is the air power school of thought, the other is the land-borne option. They create different dynamics and different timetables. The crucial factor is that the air force concept is very methodical and almost by definition is slower to get results. A ground invasion that sweeps Hezbollah in front of you is quicker, but at a much higher cost in human life and requiring the creation of a presence on the ground."

The advance scenario is now in its second week, and its success or failure is still unfolding. Whether Israel's aerial strikes will be enough to achieve the threefold aim of the campaign -- to remove the Hezbollah military threat; to evict Hezbollah from the border area, allowing the deployment of Lebanese government troops; and to ensure the safe return of the two Israeli soldiers abducted last week -- remains an open question. Israelis are opposed to the thought of reoccupying Lebanon.

"I have the feeling that the end is not clear here. I have no idea how this movie is going to end," said Daniel Ben-Simon, a military analyst for the daily Haaretz newspaper.

Thursday's clashes in southern Lebanon occurred near an outpost abandoned more than six years ago by the retreating Israeli army. The place was identified using satellite photographs of a Hezbollah bunker, but only from the ground was Israel able to discover that it served as the entrance to a previously unknown underground network of caves and bunkers stuffed with missiles aimed at northern Israel, said Israeli army spokesman Miri Regev.

"We knew about the network, but it was fully revealed (Wednesday) by the ground operation of our forces," said Regev. "This is one of the purposes of the pinpoint ground operations -- to locate and try to destroy the terrorist infrastructure from where they can fire at Israeli citizens."

Israeli military officials say as much as 50 percent of Hezbollah's missile capability has been destroyed, mainly by aerial attacks on targets identified from intelligence reports. But missiles continue to be fired at towns and cities across northern Israel.

"We were not surprised that the firing has continued," said Tzachi Hanegbi, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. "Hezbollah separated its leadership command-and-control system from its field organization. It created a network of tiny cells in each village that had no operational mission except to wait for the moment when they should activate the Katyusha rocket launchers hidden in local houses, using coordinates programmed long ago to hit Nahariya or Kiryat Shemona, or the kibbutzim and villages."

"From the start of this operation, we have also been active on the ground across the width of Lebanon," said Brig. Gen. Ron Friedman, head of Northern Command headquarters. "These missions are designed to support our current actions. Unfortunately, one of the many missions which we have carried out in recent days met with slightly fiercer resistance."

Israel didn't need sophisticated intelligence to discover the huge buildup of Iranian weapons supplies to Hezbollah by way of Syria, because Hezbollah's patrons boasted about it openly in the pages of the Arabic press. As recently as June 16, less than four weeks before the Hezbollah border raid that sparked the current crisis, the Syrian defense minister publicly announced the extension of existing agreements allowing the passage of trucks shipping Iranian weapons into Lebanon.

But to destroy them, Israel needed to map the location of each missile.

"We need a lot of patience," said Hanegbi. "The (Israeli Defense Forces) action at the moment is incapable of finding the very last Katyusha, or the last rocket launcher primed for use hidden inside a house in some village."

Moshe Marzuk, a former head of the Lebanon desk for Israeli Military Intelligence who now is a researcher at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, said Israel had learned from past conflicts in Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza -- as well as the recent U.S. experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq -- that a traditional military campaign would be counter-effective.

"A big invasion is not suitable here," said Marzuk. "We are not fighting an army, but guerrillas. It would be a mistake to enter and expose ourselves to fighters who will hide, fire off a missile and run away. If we are to be on the ground at all, we need to use commandos and special forces." Since fighting started

-- Israeli air strikes on Lebanon have hit more than 1,255 targets, including 200 rocket-launching sites.

-- Hezbollah launched more than 900 rockets and missiles into northern Israel.

-- At least 330 Lebanese have been killed, including 20 soldiers and three Hezbollah guerrillas. Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora says 1,100 have been wounded; the police put the number at 657.

-- 32 Israelis have been killed, among them 17 soldiers, according to Israeli authorities. At least 12 soldiers and 344 civilians have been wounded.

-- Foreign deaths include eight Canadians, two Kuwaiti nationals, one Iraqi, one Sri Lankan and one Jordanian.

Thursday 20 July 2006

Israel hits Hezbollah stronghold

Militants say Beirut bombing missed leaders

BOSTON GLOBE | July 20, 2006
By Matthew Kalman and Thanassis Cambanis,
Globe Correspondent and Globe Staff

BEIRUT -- Israeli warplanes last night dropped bombs on a bunker in south Beirut where Israel said Hezbollah leaders were meeting, dramatically escalating the conflict on the deadliest day yet in Israel's week-long offensive against the Islamic militant group.

Residents of the Lebanese capital heard three huge explosions just after 10 p.m. Hezbollah said early today that none of its leaders had been killed or wounded in the air attack in the Bourj al Barajneh section, located in the Shi'ite zone where Hezbollah has significant strength.

It was unclear whether Hezbollah's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, was in the bunker at the time. The Israeli military said early today only that its forces had attacked a bunker ``where senior Hezbollah members were gathered."

Even if unsuccessful, the attack demonstrated Israel's willingness to ratchet up the scale of its campaign to drive Hezbollah from southern Lebanon and destroy its ability to attack Israel. The airstrike occurred on a day of fierce fighting between Israeli forces and Hezbollah militants in the first serious Israeli ground engagement inside Lebanon in the current offensive.

Israeli warplanes continued to pound Hezbollah targets across southern Lebanon, fueling a wave of refugees fleeing their homes and heading north toward safety.

Lebanon's prime minister, Fouad Siniora, said Israeli attacks had killed 300 people and caused ``unimaginable losses" in Lebanese infrastructure since last Thursday, and he called for an immediate cease-fire. International pressure mounted for Israel to halt its campaign, but Israeli officials showed no sign of easing pressure on Hezbollah, which ignited the current offensive with a deadly cross-border attack against an Israeli patrol July 12 in which two Israeli soldiers were kidnapped.

Two Israeli soldiers and two Hezbollah fighters were reported killed in a firefight yesterday just inside Lebanon when the soldiers discovered a Hezbollah munitions cache on the site of an abandoned Israeli outpost dating from the occupation of southern Lebanon.

Israel wants to avoid a messy ground war, which would undercut its military advantage against Hezbollah and might provoke major internal debate among Israelis still smarting from the 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon that ended with a withdrawal in 2000.

At least 55 Lebanese were reported killed in Israeli airstrikes and ground operations on Wednesday alone, making it the deadliest day so far.

Two young Israeli-Arab brothers also were killed in the first rocket attack on the old city of Nazareth, site of the Basilica of the Annunciation.

Hezbollah also fired about 100 rockets in an arc across northern Israel from Haifa in the west to Tiberias in the east.

The four Israeli casualties brought the Israeli death toll for the week to 29.

In Beirut, a luxury American cruise liner and two Chinook helicopters joined the international flotilla evacuating thousands of foreign nationals from Beirut, where Siniora, the prime minister, angrily rejected international claims that Israel was acting in self-defense.

Siniora said Lebanon would seek compensation from Israel for the widespread destruction of the past week, which has forced about half a million people from their homes.

``Is this what the international community calls the right of self-defense? Is this the price to pay?" Siniora demanded of ambassadors gathered in Beirut. ``We will spare no avenue to make Israel compensate."

Israel said its forces repelled an attempt by Hezbollah fighters to infiltrate across the border near Metulla.

In Jerusalem, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana discussed possible diplomatic solutions to the crisis in talks with Israeli leaders, but Syria denied entry to a United Nations team trying to put together a cease-fire.

In Geneva, the top UN human rights official warned that the scale of civilian casualties inflicted in the current conflict could constitute war crimes, though she did not make specific accusations.

``The scale of the killings in the region, and their predictability, could engage the personal criminal responsibility of those involved, particularly those in a position of command and control," said Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Israeli security chiefs said they had now destroyed about half of Hezbollah's military capacity, with fighter jets and helicopter gunships flying about 150 sorties each day, attacking Hezbollah's rocket launchers, military outposts, and weapons depots as well as communication and transportation arteries.

The victims yesterday included civilians on both sides of the border.

Five people were killed when an Israeli missile hit a neighborhood in the southern Lebanese town of Nabatiyeh, police and hospital officials said.

The target was a commercial office of a firm belonging to Hezbollah, but those killed were residents.

In the village of Srifa, near Tyre in southern Lebanon, the airstrikes flattened 15 houses. The village's headman, Hussein Kamaledine, said 25 to 30 people lived in the houses, but it was not known if they were at home. Many people have fled southern Lebanon.

``This is a real massacre," Kamaledine told Al-Manar TV as fire engines extinguished the blaze and rescuers searched for survivors.

In Nazareth in northern Israel, 3-year-old Rabia Abed Taluzi and his brother Mahmoud, 7, were playing close to their family home when they were killed by a direct hit from a rocket which landed in the street nearby.

``It's a vacation and it's afternoon, so where will they go if not to play in the streets?" Mohammed Assawi, a neighbor, told Israel's Channel 10 News.

``It is unpleasant to say what we saw."

Moments later, a second strike hit a building in the town center, sending black smoke billowing into the air.

It was the first attack on the mainly Arab city. Upper Nazareth, the predominantly Jewish new town nearby, was hit over the weekend.

Israel's foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, told Solana that Israel insisted on three conditions to end the fighting: the return of its kidnapped soldiers, an end to Hezbollah rocket attacks, and the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which calls for disarming Hezbollah and the deployment of Lebanese government forces up to the border.

``Israel is fighting to end the control of the Hezbollah over the lives of both Lebanese and Israelis and to bring an end to its attempts to destabilize the region," Livni told reporters after her meeting with Solana.

``Israel and the international community have a common goal, to promote a process that will bring about a long-term and fundamental change in the political reality in the region, and that will eliminate the threat of terrorism facing both Israelis and Lebanese," she said.

Cambanis reported from Beirut, and Kalman from Jerusalem. Material from Associated Press also was used.

Wednesday 19 July 2006

Amid barrage, a Holocaust heroine shakes off fear

By Matthew Kalman, Globe Correspondent
BOSTON GLOBE | July 19, 2006

NAHARIYA, Israel -- Orna Shorani, 76, was named a ``Righteous Among the Nations" for her bravery in rescuing Jews from the Nazi Holocaust. This week her character was on display once again when she brushed off a direct hit by a Hezbollah rocket on her house in this town in northern Israel.

Orna was fast asleep last Thursday morning when a Katyusha rocket fired by militants from Lebanon struck her home, crashing through the roof of her grandson's apartment upstairs and sending her bedroom door flying across the room, where it hit her on the head.

But she refused to go to the hospital, and yesterday she was back at home while workers patched up the damage. All the windows in the front of her house were smashed, the doors were blown off their hinges, and the roof had a gaping hole.

``There was a huge boom, and I got a crack on the head," said Orna, who sees and hears with difficulty and walks with a cane.

``My grandson came running down to see I was OK, but I told him to go away and let me go back to sleep," she said.

Orna lives in Nahariya, a few miles from the border with Lebanon, and the target of attacks by Hezbollah in the past few days. Half the town's residents have left, but Orna said she had no intention of leaving.

``I lived through the Second World War and all of Israel's wars," she said. ``I think I'll survive this one, too."

Orna did more than survive World War II. With her mother and sisters, she hid 25 Jews from a Nazi labor camp next to their home in Hungary and smuggled them to safety. One of them, Ladislav Shorani, jumped over the fence into her garden, kissed her, and declared:

``You will be my wife!"

``He went off to fight with the Russian Army," Orna recalled. ``Three years later, he came back and married me. After the war, we moved to Israel."

Orna had a simple explanation for why she saved Jews from the Nazis back then.

``God said `Thou shalt not kill.' We couldn't stand by and let the Nazis kill these innocent Jews," she said.

And, said Orna, she still believes the same today.

``We need peace in all the world," she said. ``Every person, wherever they live, is entitled to live in peace and good health. This is what I wish for our side, for the other side, and for all the countries of this region."

Tuesday 18 July 2006

Underground city endures barrage

By Matthew Kalman Globe Correspondent / July 18, 2006

ACRE, Israel -- The underground city in the ancient port of Acre was built by the Crusaders and at this time of year is usually thronged with tourists. But against the background of wailing air-raid sirens and the dull thud of exploding rockets, Mayor Shimon Lankri said yesterday that the compound was now open 24 hours a day as a makeshift bomb shelter.

``We have been hit by five missiles so far, but no one has been badly hurt," Lankri told the Globe.

He said the mixed Jewish and Arab town had 50 public shelters and 500 private shelters beneath apartment houses, but many were full of junk and had not been cleaned in years.

The residents of Acre, which is just north of the modern port city of Haifa, have been confined to their homes for six days because of continuing rocket attacks from Hezbollah missile batteries across the border with Lebanon, about 10 miles to the north.

People here say they cannot remember the last time Acre was attacked in this way. Yesterday, several missiles fell in and around the town. One fell harmlessly in the holy garden shrine of the Baha'i Temple . There were no casualties.

Lankri and his staff, who are working around the clock to deliver essential supplies of food, milk, and diapers to families afraid to venture out, have prepared a bomb-proof bunker in the basement of City Hall to direct operations if things get worse. From there, municipal officials backed by army, police, and emergency services will direct the running of the town. Taped to a wall in the bunker yesterday were hastily assembled lists of bomb shelters, possible evacuation centers and key personnel.

One room contained numbered metal trunks full of fresh medical equipment. A large generator has been installed to provide electricity should the missiles take out the power supply.

Lankri said Acre's Jewish and Arab residents are facing their ordeal together. Half the town's population of 52,000 is Jewish, while the other half are Christian and Muslim Arabs.

``Arabs and Jews all live together in Acre," said Lankri. ``We are like a model of co-existence for the rest of Israel. . . . Everybody is afraid, Arabs and Jews together, when missiles are falling down from the skies," he added.

``All the people here support the government campaign against Hezbollah," he said. ``We hope they can solve the problem quickly because if there is peace there will be lots of tourists and lots of money to help all the people whose businesses have been closed for the past week."

Monday 17 July 2006

Hezbollah makes its deadliest strike

Police and religious rescue workers in Haifa, Israel, tended to those killed in a Hezbollah rocket attack. (Oded Balilty/ Associated Press)

BOSTON GLOBE | July 17, 2006

By Anne Barnard and Matthew Kalman, Globe Staff and Globe Correspondent

HAIFA, Israel -- A Hezbollah rocket struck a railway repair shed in the city yesterday, killing eight engineers and wounding 30 people in the deadliest blow to Israel in five days of fighting with the Lebanese-based militant group.

Israeli airstrikes across Lebanon yesterday and early today killed at least 24 people, including eight Lebanese soldiers at a radar station in the north of the country.

As the leaders of the Group of Eight industrial nations warned that the fighting could ``provoke a wider conflict," Israeli officials ratcheted up their rhetoric against Syria, declaring that some of the 30 rockets that hit Haifa yesterday were Syrian-made, of a type that was exported to Lebanon in 2001. Syrian officials denied the accusation.

Last night, Hezbollah rockets fired from Lebanon penetrated farther than ever into Israel, hitting Afula, 33 miles south of border, and landing on the outskirts of Nazareth. Israeli officials said Hezbollah possessed rockets that could fly more than 40 miles and warned residents of Tel Aviv, the country's metropolitan hub about 70 miles from the border, to be alert.

The blast in Haifa, Israel's third-largest city, brought the Israeli death toll to at least 24, half of them civilians. Israeli airstrikes have killed at least 148 people in Lebanon, most of them civilians.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared that Israel ``will not return to the status quo" that existed before Hezbollah guerrillas sparked the crisis by launching a cross-border raid Wednesday, capturing two Israeli soldiers and killing three.

Since 2000, when Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon after an 18-year occupation, Hezbollah outposts overlooked Israeli towns on the border and Hezbollah forces operated freely in the Lebanese south, outside government control.

``The situation was intolerable," Olmert told his Cabinet at a weekly meeting, adding that the fighting would not stop until the threat is removed.

Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, touring the shrapnel-scarred scene of the deadly Haifa blast, went further, saying, ``We must continue to attack Hezbollah until its infrastructure, which has been built up over the years in the heart of Beirut, is wiped out."

Defense Minister Amir Peretz declared that Israel would achieve its goals without sending ground troops into Lebanon. The prospect of a ground war troubles many Israelis after the previous Lebanese war, which is often described as Israel's Vietnam and ended when domestic opposition forced the pullout six years ago.

A senior military official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, said the mission could stop short of eradicating the militant group, estimated to have about 6,000 fighters.

``I'll be modest -- we will not eliminate Hezbollah in a week or two," he said. ``We just need to weaken it enough so the Lebanese government can deal with them" and implement United Nations Resolution 1559.

That measure calls for the government to assert control over the whole country -- including deploying along the border with Israel -- and disarm militias.

Hezbollah enjoys the support of Shi'ite Muslims while the weak army is backed by a coalition of Christians and moderate Sunnis opposed to Syrian influence. Since the bloody Lebanese civil war ended in 1990, Lebanon has operated with a fragile consensus government that avoids confrontation.

Haifa, a city of 220,000 that slopes down Mount Carmel to the Mediterranean Sea, was reduced to a ghost town yesterday.

The missile left a large hole in the roof over the railway sidings. It hit a platform between the trains, scattering bits of metal and ball bearings everywhere that left small holes and shattered windows on the train cars. Pools of blood covered the floor.

At the scene, Mofaz, a former military chief of staff, said the missile that hit the shed was provided to Hezbollah by Syria, an accusation laid out in more detail by a senior military officer who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.

The rockets that hit Haifa included 122mm Katyusha rockets, of which Hezbollah has 12,000 and has fired 800 in the last five days, the officer said. But they also included at least one Fajr rocket, made in Iran, and one 220mm rocket made in Syria, he said.

Imad Moustapha, the Syrian ambassador to the United States, told CNN, ``Syria does not provide military training or military equipment to Hezbollah in Lebanon."

Israel Air Force Brigadier General Yohanan Locker said Israel would continue to target Hezbollah missile launchers placed on the roofs of residential buildings.

At the briefing, the senior Israeli officer said the military has hit four Fajr launchers in south Lebanon. He said that on Thursday, Israel attacked more than 40 launchers, most in civilian houses.

In Haifa, Avraham El-Hayani, an air-conditioning engineer for Israel Railways, said he survived the attack because he was working inside one of the train cars when the rocket hit, killing workers on the platform.

``I heard a huge explosion. There was a flash of bright blue light and then silence. Then I heard water and I realized the automatic sprinklers had come on," he said while recovering from shock at Rambam Hospital.

After a few seconds, Hayani said, he recovered and tried to give first aid, as two more rockets crashed down outside.

``My friends had blood pouring from wounds all over their body," he said. ``Their limbs were smashed. It was horrible."

Police ordered Haifa residents to stay indoors, fearing further attacks. The streets of the bustling port city emptied within minutes.

Banks, shopping centers, and restaurants closed, and Haifa's two universities canceled all classes and exams. Cinemas and theaters shut their doors and a dance festival planned for last night was canceled. Police said all factories in northern Israel were shut.

The Baguette Bar-Café on HaMeginim Street downtown was one of the few businesses open.

``I want to work. I'm scared, but I have to support my family," said proprietor Nadr Shehadeh, a Christian Arab who said he was proud to live in this mixed Jewish-Arab city.

``No one, neither Israel nor Hezbollah, is doing the right thing, but most people here support the Israeli government," Shehadeh said. ``I didn't serve in the army, but I feel that by staying open I'm serving the people of this city, Jew and Arab alike."

Matthew Kalman reported from Haifa, Anne Barnard from Jerusalem, and Globe correspondent Alon Tuval from Tel Aviv.

Friday 14 July 2006


'THIS IS A WAR': Kidnappings and the perceived hand of Iran demand response, leaders say

San Francisco Chronicle
Friday, July 14, 2006
Page A - 1

Matthew Kalman, Chronicle Foreign Service

Jerusalem -- For Israel, Wednesday's raid was a kidnapping too far.

The cross-border raid by Hezbollah gunmen on an Israeli army patrol in northern Israel and the abduction of two soldiers whom the captors declared to be bargaining chips for the release of Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners held by Israel prompted a response that threatens the stability of the region.

"The notion that this is a limited operation is wrong -- this is a fundamentally new situation," Gen. Gershon Yitzhak, head of the Israeli Army Home Front Command, said in an interview. "This is not an operation. This is a war for the sake of our home, what it will look like in the future and how we will be able to live in the region. This operation will continue to expand, and it is only just beginning.

"We must remove this threat once and for all," the general added.

In the six years since the Israeli army withdrew from southern Lebanon, ending 18 years of occupation, the government in Jerusalem has responded to similar kidnappings and kidnap attempts with minor displays of force and the occasional limited bombing of targets in Lebanon and Syria.

This time, Israel bombed Lebanese bridges and military bases. Its attacks ignited fuel reserves and destroyed runways at the Beirut airport, sending flames and a pall of black smoke floating over the capital. Early this morning, Israeli bombers damaged the major road leading from Beirut to Damascus, Syria, and launched at least four missiles at the southern suburbs of Beirut where Hezbollah officials live. Three people were killed and dozens wounded, Lebanese police said. Anti-aircraft fire echoed as Israeli jets roared over the capital. It was not immediately clear who was firing at the planes as both the Lebanese army and Hezbollah have anti-aircraft artillery.

The all-out Israeli response could be measured against factors that changed the usual calculation of action and reaction.

First, it came barely two weeks after a similar cross-border raid by Hamas guerrillas from Gaza ended in the deaths of two Israeli soldiers and the abduction of a third. Israel has failed to secure the release of missing Cpl. Gilad Shalit despite reinvading the Gaza Strip for the first time since Jewish settlements were vacated and Israeli army posts closed in September.

Israeli leaders cannot afford such incidents to become commonplace, and the harsh response was intended at least in part to deter similar kidnappings in the future.

"We reached the point where we had to tell the Hezbollah, in a language that the Hezbollah can understand, that there is a limit to everything," Shimon Peres, Israel's deputy prime minister told reporters in Tel Aviv.

"The Israeli government is determined to hit Hamas and Hezbollah and destroy their infrastructure in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, and to reach the point where the Palestinian Authority on the one hand and the Lebanese government on the other hand, probably with the support from the world community, will ... make sure that the use of weapons will be the monopoly of the state," said Ehud Barak, the former prime minister who initiated the Israeli pullout from Lebanon in May 2000.

Second, Israeli intelligence believes that Iran -- Hezbollah's main bankroller -- initiated Wednesday's raid. Israeli leaders believe the time has come to clip Hezbollah's wings before the Iranian influence grows even stronger. Iran is passionately committed to the destruction of the Jewish state and provides funding, training and arms for Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah.

According to Israeli intelligence sources, Iran gave Hezbollah the green light for the raid. These sources said Hezbollah's extensive rocket barrage on northern Israel followed talks in Damascus between Hezbollah officials and Ali Larijani, head of Iran's supreme national security council, who arrived in the Syrian capital on Wednesday morning.

During his stopover in Damascus, Larijani also met with Syrian President Bashar Assad and the leaders of radical Palestinian groups that are given sanctuary in the Syrian capital, including Khaled Mashaal, the supreme leader of Hamas.

Israeli Foreign Ministry Deputy Director General Gideon Meir said the government had "specific information that Hezbollah is planning to transfer the kidnapped soldiers to Iran."

Larijani was returning to Iran after fruitless talks with European leaders in Brussels, which failed to break the deadlock over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Lebanese commentators expressed fears that Hezbollah's raid on the Israeli patrol and the rocket barrage that followed were designed to divert attention away from the increasing international pressure on Iran to halt its nuclear program.

"Was yesterday's operation aimed at easing the considerable pressure being brought to bear by the international community, headed by the U.S., on the Islamic Republic of Iran regarding its nuclear dossier?" asked Sarkis Na'um, a columnist for the Christian Lebanese daily Al-Nahar.

Hezbollah's Al-Manar Television broadcast pictures of the new Iranian-supplied 333mm Raad-1 rocket, which it said was used in Thursday's attack on an Israeli army base near Safed, about 10 miles from the Israel-Lebanon border. The Raad-1 carries 200 pounds of explosives.

Israel targeted Beirut's airport because, Israeli military officials said, it was regularly used to transport Iranian weapons, often flown via Syria, to Hezbollah and to Palestinian militants in Lebanon.

The same Israeli planes, flying over the southern Beirut suburb of Dahiya, showered the area with Arabic-language leaflets warning residents to leave their homes or suffer the consequences of living as neighbors to Hassan Nasrallah, the charismatic leader of Hezbollah, and other members of the radical Shiite group's leadership, most of whom occupy heavily fortified residences in the area.

"The story of Nasrallah and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon is not a local matter," said Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. "It's not connected just to the north of Israel. He wants to influence the entire Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we must not let him assume greater importance than he has."

Hezbollah's gamble to launch a cross-border attack was risky, but Israel is also playing with fire.

"The logic of the current situation is likely to move Israel in the direction of abandoning restraints, broadening objectives and expanding the scope of its operations -- perhaps to include military action against Syria -- in order to end the crisis on terms that it considers acceptable," warned Michael Eisenstadt, a senior fellow and director of security studies at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Tuesday 11 July 2006

Einstein letters reveal a turmoil beyond science

July 11, 2006

By Matthew Kalman, Globe Correspondent

JERUSALEM -- Albert Einstein made bad financial investments, revealed details about his mistresses to his wives, and was plagued by doubts about his relationship with his two sons.

Those were among the intimate details of Einstein's life that emerged yesterday in a trove of more than 3,500 pages of letters, papers, postcards, and other documents unsealed at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

They include notes and drawings to and from his children and his two wives, Mileva and Elsa. In one note to his stepdaughter written in 1928, Einstein drew a small cartoon of himself lying ill in bed, reading a book with a chamber pot at the ready.

Researchers say the newly available papers offer few insights into Einstein's science, but do shed light on the personal life and the character of the creator of the special theory of relativity.

Einstein bequeathed his personal papers to Hebrew University when he died in 1955. The letters released yesterday were an additional bequest added to the collection by his stepdaughter Margot Einstein on condition that they be sealed for 20 years after her death. She died in July 1986.

The letters reveal how Einstein lost most of his Nobel Prize money in bad bond investments on Wall Street, and provide details of how he was showered with affection and gifts by his many mistresses.

``It added colors to the image we had of Einstein before," said Barbara Wolff, an archivist at the Albert Einstein Archives at Hebrew University who has read and indexed the newly released material. ``Now we have a high-resolution picture."

The material unsealed in the archives includes documents from 1912 to 1955. A handful of the items were available for view at a press conference yesterday at Hebrew University announcing the collection. Some will be included in the 10th volume of the Einstein Archive, covering Einstein's correspondence from May to December 1920. The series is published by Princeton University Press and edited by the Einstein Papers Project at the California Institute of Technology.

Einstein achieved world fame in 1905 after publishing his special theory of relativity while he was living in Bern, Switzerland. He settled in Berlin in 1914 but traveled extensively, lecturing and working in many places including three stints as a scholar in residence at Oxford University. Threatened by the Nazis, who put a bounty on his head, he left Berlin for good in 1933 and settled in Princeton, N.J., from where he continued to correspond with his sons and former wife in Switzerland.

He became involved with Elsa, a cousin, in 1912 when he was still married to his first wife Mileva, a fellow scientist with whom he had two boys, Hans Albert and Eduard. Before he and Mileva married, they had a daughter, Lieserl, who was given up for adoption.

In 1919, Einstein divorced Mileva and married Elsa, but within four years he was in love with Bette Neumann, his secretary who was also the young niece of one of his friends. Many more liaisons followed.

The letters reveal that a beautiful Berlin socialite named Ethel Michanowski followed him to Oxford, only to discover that he was involved with a third woman.

According to excerpts of letters made available to reporters, Einstein discussed his extra-marital affairs openly with his family.

``It is true that M. followed me and her chasing after me is getting out of control," wrote Einstein to his stepdaughter in May 1931 of Michanowski's infatuation. ``I will tell her that she should vanish immediately. . . . Out of all the dames, I am in fact attached only to Mrs L. who is absolutely harmless and decent, and even with this there is no danger to the divine world order."

``I don't care what people are saying about me, but for mother and Mrs M. it is better that not every Tom, Dick and Harry gossip about it," he wrote.

``Mrs L." was Margarete Lenbach, another wealthy woman who used to send a chauffeur-driven car to collect Einstein for their late-night trysts.

But Einstein valued Michanowski's discretion, as he wrote to his second wife Elsa in 1931.

``Mrs. M. definitely acted according to the best Christian-Jewish ethics: 1) one should do what one enjoys and what won't harm anyone else; and 2) one should refrain from doing things one does not take delight in and which annoy another person. Because of 1) she came with me, and because of 2) she didn't tell you a word. Isn't that irreproachable?"

Einstein's distance from his two sons after the divorce from Mileva clearly troubled him. He wrote how much he enjoyed taking the boys on holiday but at times expressed despair over his younger son, Eduard, who suffered from schizophrenia. On more than one occasion he suggested it would have been better if Eduard had never been born.

But things were troubled even before the split with Mileva, not least because of Einstein's womanizing. In June 1915, Einstein went on holiday with Elsa after his older son, Hans Albert, curtly rejected an invitation to join him.

``Dear Papa, You should contact Mama about such things, because I'm not the only one to decide here. But if you're so unfriendly to her, I don't want to go with you either," wrote the boy, then just 11 years old.

The divorce settlement with Mileva contained a unique clause in which Einstein agreed that if he were to win the Nobel Prize he would deposit the money in a Swiss bank account in Mileva's name, and she could use the interest to finance the upbringing of the children. Einstein indeed won the prize for physics in 1921, but failed to fulfill this promise, and biographies have said that Mileva always felt betrayed.

The newly released papers reveal that he invested three-quarters of the money, about $24,000, in long-term bonds via the Ladenburg and Thalmann Bank in New York. Mileva was supposed to receive the interest. But the value of the bonds was wiped out in the Depression of the 1930s and Mileva's income dried up.

On June 12, 1932, Mileva asked her former husband for more money to help pay the mortgage on properties she had bought. ``Not so much is left for us to live on, especially since our income in any case has been reduced because of the loss from the papers in America," she wrote.

But Professor Hanoch Gutfreund, who is responsible for the Einstein bequest at Hebrew University, said Einstein made amends: ``Over the course of his life he sent Mileva and the boys regular sums of cash, much more than if he had only given them his Nobel Prize award."